- Editors note: Having read the LA Times article I have changed my stance on this issue. I am leaving this article in place for posterity sake as it accurately reflects what I felt at the time I thought dancers were going to be asked to work for free. -Stephanie Bri
There’s not a lot of things in my life I would classify as a regret. For the most part I take what life has thrown at me with a grin and a nod to fate. I’ve been quite blessed in many ways. Along those same lines there are few things that get me hot blooded. Screwing over dancers is one of them.
The recent reports of Super Bowl dancers being asked to work, for free, during a once-in-a-lifetime highly rated sporting event that rakes in millions of dollars in ad revenue alone boils my blood so fast. It starts with a reminder how disgusting capitalism has become in a world where imaginary digital currency can crash stock markets. This is the worst kind of egregious infraction in my opinion.
It’s not like I ever had legit dreams of being a dancer myself. But if you went back in time to 1999-2002 you would have known a different version of me. Back then I was a break dancer. I know how hard a dancer works. I know the grueling pain they put their body through to get a set down. I have been there. I was pretty good too.
I had a break dance group with a few friends. We battled in back alleys and on side walks in Casino parking lots or in the high school gym during our lunch period. Then we managed to get two public performances. The first was the Sweat heart ball. I was hired as DJ. My homies and I set aside a song that would serve as the back drop for our single dance set. I have plenty of witnesses who can back this up. Once my crew hit the floor the cheers were so loud it drowned out the music. The police came by because they thought there was a riot taking place. We tore the roof of that place. We kicked ass. But that 90 second performance was a culmination of 9 months of intense work outs, training and practice. We busted our asses to bust out those moves in front of a crowd.
We were so damn hot right after we were invited to perform at Prom too. This was a big deal because our prom took place inside the ballroom at the largest casino in town. Again it was a show stopping performance. When I say I know what a dancer puts their body through I fucking mean it. I was damn good. The reason I didn’t pursue it full time was as superficial as why I did it in the first place. I was also a Hip Hop DJ and rap performer. I spent all my time, effort and money on starting up a recording studio which I used to release three underground albums that all tanked hard core. Once I lost all my money I sank into a dead end business I walked away.
It wasn’t until around ten years later I found myself in college. I had a South Korean friend I met in English class who turned out was a skilled b boy. He and I met up after classes and rented a space at the rec room. We would practice our moves. It was like being back in high school. I was a theater minor at the time so the idea of actually making a living as a dancer re-entered my mind for real this time. Until it just left me.
All of a sudden one day I was too tired from depression to bring myself to get up. This was after losing 35 pounds over the course of three months and working out at the gym every night. I got back into shape. At 31 I was the most fit I had ever been in my life. Depression took hold and I was back in my sloth ways before long. A couple days go by my friend asked if I was coming down to dance. I stopped going. After a couple more days he just stopped asking. In 2015 I broke my foot in a pretty decisive way. My dreams of ever being a dancer for a living were thoroughly squashed for good.
I don’t ever talk about my dancing beyond a mere mention. On rare occasions I will mention when I was in high school I had been a break dancer. But I never reflect on exactly how much effort I put into that. I wasted countless h ours getting in shape, buffing my body and learning hot hip hop dance steps you’d be amazed to have seen me pull off. Today you’d be in disbelief if I could even describe the moves I was once capable of popping out at the drop of a hat, literally as a ball cap was a part of my routine.
When I hear one of the richest institutions in the country is ripping off under paid, over worked dancers who are living their dream it brings my blood to a boil. To the point where if nothing changes there is no chance in hell I watch that game this year. I gave up my dream. I walked away. Nobody who is out there putting in the effort, time and work to kill herself to get ready for the biggest night in sports entertainment should be asked to work for free. These women are living their dream they deserve to be paid accordingly. Dancing is hard ass work. You have no idea.
Walking away is legit my biggest regret in life. I lost count how many times I have driven out to the country, cranked up a b boy track and cried tears of solid regret at what I gave up to be an obese diabetic writer. Nothing stings harsher than the disappointment I have in myself walking away from that theater minor chasing a path that landed me expelled from school and working freelance to make a living. Nothing punches me in the gut more than seeing a dancer on TV bust out a move I was once able to do at a moments notice. Today I couldn’t even do a cartwheel to save my life.
My days of spinning on my head, backflips and robot glides are long ass gone. Do me a favor and make some noise for those women who are holding onto hope keeping their dream alive. I can’t call for a boycott of the Super Bowl, not one person who has a vested interest in the matter will answer that call. Instead I will cry tears of sorrow for the life I gave up. I will cry in solidarity with dancers who just want to get an honest pay for a hard ass days work.